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Niagara County Legislator Jesse Gooch and Town of Wheatfield judges Gary Strenkoski and Angela Stamm-Philipps handed out over 100 Thanksgiving dinners to local seniors for free on Friday.
Niagara County Legislator Jesse Gooch and Town of Wheatfield judges Gary Strenkoski and Angela Stamm-Philipps handed out over 100 Thanksgiving dinners to local seniors for free on Friday.

Local officials hand out free meals to Wheatfield seniors

Fri, Nov 27th 2020 07:00 am

Wheatfield seniors also give back

By Michael DePietro

Photos courtesy of Legislator Jesse Gooch

Last Friday, officials from Niagara County and the Town of Wheatfield were on hand at the Wheatfield Senior Center to hand out over 100 Thanksgiving dinners to local seniors. The event was part of Niagara County Legislator Jesse Gooch’s “Meals With Heart From Six Feet Apart” program that he created in March to offer affordable meals to seniors in the community amid the ongoing pandemic.

“Senior citizens are very important to our community and sometimes get overlooked,” Gooch said. “I think it’s important for the seniors, especially with the number of (rising cases in the area) and the lockdowns and stuff. A lot of them aren’t going to get to see family members this year.”

The meals, which were prepared at cost by chef Jeff Jamieson from The Meeting Place, were initially advertised at a price of $5. However, when customers arrived to pay for their meals, they learned all meals had been paid for by Gooch, and Town of Wheatfield judges Gary Strenkoski and Angela Stamm-Philipps.

Strenkoski and Gooch were quick to credit Stamm-Philipps for organizing the trio to cover the meal costs.

“For me, it was just a small way to give back,” Stamm-Philipps said. “But it was also so worth while just to see the smiles when they came. And it was touching, too, because so many of them brought and made donations.”

With the meals covered, seniors were encouraged, instead, to donate money and/or canned goods to Cub Scout Pack No. 824 on behalf of Community Missions. Gooch said, in total, the troop received hundreds of canned goods and nearly $150 in donations.

When asked if they were surprised about the residents “pay-it-forward” response, Stamm-Philipps and Strenkoski said they weren’t.

“It’s the Wheatfield way. Our community is full of wonderful people who are just so giving, and so I really wasn’t surprised (by the generosity) at all,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of this. There are just so many special people here. It was heartwarming, it really was.”

“We’re Wheatfield. That’s what the people are around here,” Strenkoski said. “They wanted to do what we were doing. All they want to do is help. In the way that helping with the seniors made Judge Philipps and I feel good, giving back to the Scouts made those folks feel good. So am I surprised? Like I said, we’re Wheatfield and that’s what folks around here do. It’s a great place where neighbors care.”

The trio also wanted to thank Town Clerk Kathy Harrington and staff for their assistance with the drive, Community Center Administrative Assistant Gail Connery for taking orders, and Supervisor Don MacSwan for his support.

Included with each meal was a note reminding seniors to remember to wash their hands and stay in their homes as much as possible. It also included the number for Niagara County Mental Health Services (716-285-3515) for free crisis support, and an encouragement to reach out to Gooch himself anytime at 716-583-8931.

For updates and more information on COVID-19, visit www.niagaracounty.com.

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